Saturday, December 8, 2012

8 months in Ukraine, revisited

I don't know how this has happened, but another 8 months have flown by after making that phone call back in March... bringing us to a grand total of 16 months in Ukraine.


That sounds so long! Almost enough time to get an associates degree or have two babies! But I'm glad I chose Ukraine for this period of time instead of more education or starting a family. I think it will prove just as rewarding in the long run.

The past 8 months have been very different from the previous 8. Remember Кто не рискует, тот не пьет шампанское from June? Since then I've been trying a ton of new things. 
This summer I did a weekly English Game Night with another teacher.

Blogging, as you can probably tell, has become more than just a hobby. It's become a lifestyle and I love it.

I started volunteering with a local social service agency this fall, offering English to its employees weekly and hanging out with the children once or twice a month.

D and I have begun work on a website to help others learn Russian. We started from scratch but it's coming along pretty well. Just have a couple more things to do before it's ready to be shared with all of you!

Private students are always in some stage of appearing or disappearing from my teaching schedule.

There is кит, of course. Having a cat has been a totally new experience!
Speaking of which, he's kind of become my study buddy... and actually my Russian has improved a lot : )

Perhaps the biggest change ahead will take place next March. Finally, finally I turned in my notice with the school I'm working at now. I can't believe it took an 8 month contract and then another 8 months of pondering it to finally overcome the inertia of inaction and move forward. The upcoming semester will be my last semester with them for a while and it feels like the right decision. Like I mentioned before, everyone else is gone and there's no mobility or progress, only stability. So this month I've been exploring some other options. While it means extra work, it's nice to have change, nice to have a new challenge and more freedom in planning for classes.

Yesterday, like the song goes-
the weather outside was frightful
but our friends were so delightful. They invited us over to their place for homemade borsch. And did I mention they happen to be living in our old apartment? That's probably what has made me so reflective, walking again into the small orange kitchen and peach sitting room that was our home for so long. They had rolled up the carpet and moved the table but otherwise things looked the same. Only the view from the balcony had changed. The eternal sidewalk repair had at last ended and an impressive shiny row of metal kiosks now stands on the corner where the watermelon guy used to hawk his produce. With slushy rain falling outside, we settled in with our good friends (and their pet rat!) for some traditional Ukrainian dishes.
Homegrown marinated tomatoes and salo, cured pig fat. Our friend is from the village- "I can tell you about this pig," he said. "It was a hairy black pig and it took a lot of work to burn the hair off."
Sides: bread, mashed potatoes, pork
Check out this crazy new vodka- there's a stalk of wheat inside!
It was so much fun to hang out with our hosts- playing with Shelley (their rat) and watching Family Guy- that we missed the final metro and had to take a taxi back. In the old days we would walk up to the metro station and hop in the cab of a loitering driver for 50-60 uah, but this time we looked up the taxi number online, called, and got home for only 33 uah. The last time we were in a taxi ages ago. I can't even remember. There's something luxurious about being in a taxi, though, and D and I held hands and leaned against the seats to watch the city speed by.

As we left our friends' part of town, a tire shop along the highway caught my eye. There's a giant red tomato on their sign and I remembered someone telling me that it paid homage to the location's earlier existence as a produce store. That was weird, to know some obscure fact like that about the city. It made me think. As our taxi passed the Lopan river I flashed back to life as an exchange student in Siberia, how our small group of foreigners got so much attention in a city of homogenous Yakuts and the occasional Russian. Kharkov is completely different- there are so many foreigners here that you bump into one on every street corner. Is that why I feel more comfortable here? As the taxi approached the final stretch, passing by the towering Assumption cathedral, I realized that this city truly feels like home for me. It truly truly does and I don't want to give it up. It's like the first 8 months here were a trial, the next 8 were a discovery, and now a new era is beginning. I want to be here for whatever lies ahead.

But in the immediate short-term, I'd like to finish the song and send a message to the weather gods: stop the rain and slush and let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!


  1. I'm so glad to hear it feels like home here! :)

    1. It wouldn't feel that way without good friends like you, Timur! You were the very first person from Kharkov to extend an offer of friendship toward us, thank you :)

  2. Wow, you've had a lot on your plate lately! I'm interested to hear more about the Russian-learning website you guys are designing. ALSO, best of luck searching for that new job. It must be at once scary and exhilarating to think of the new change. Mucha suerte!

    1. Hola Cassandra, thanks for dropping by and thanks for the kind wishes! :)